The electronic cradles or Ammathottils were introduced by the Kerala State Child Welfare Council (KSCWC) to ensure that infants are left in a place where they can be cared for and eventually put up for adoption.

It continues to serve this purpose, with the 15 cradles set up in the State presenting a solid solution in terms of safety, and hope for prospective parents who are unable to have a child of their own.

However, the KSCWS, which has arguably the largest ‘waiting list’ of parents, numbering over 700 couples – some having registered five years ago.

But the number of children at the Council’s centre here is only 45. Not all of them are even ‘free for adoption’. Over 30 of them have biological parents and are technically being housed by the Council until they are able to reclaim them.

This category includes cases of parents being physically unfit of caring the child.

For instance, there was a recent case involving a mother suffering from severe depression.

This leaves less than 15 children, eight of whom are suffering from conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, partial deafness.

Officials say that the number of children up for adoption has come down drastically in the Council because of a government order issued in 2012.

According to this directive by the Social Welfare Department, children left in Ammathottils can be handed over to the nearest private adoption centre overriding an earlier order which required every abandoned child to be handed over the sole government-run agency, the KSCWS.

“Though there is a network of Ammathottils in the State, the child need not necessarily come to the Council. In Malappuram, where we do manage a foundling home, children from the Ammathottil are taken to a private nursing centre,” said administrative officer P. Sasidharan Nair.

This centre can accommodate over 20 children, but currently has only five.

The Council maintains ‘Ammathottils,’ but infants left there are taken to private centres as per a GO issued in 2012.